At some point in the near future I will post an article about the current status of the “buy vs rent” decision for foreigners in Thailand. It’s an important topic for discussion and it can be confusing at times, so check in next week to get the latest scoop. This article will focus on some strategies for ensuring you get the very best available price on a suitable flat or home in most places you’d consider living in Thailand.
The most important and obvious concept to finding the best rentals is to stay off of the internet. Instead you should drive around looking for “FOR RENT” signs in Thai and in English and have a Thai person call and negotiate on your behalf, only presenting your intent on living there once you know the “Thai prices.” This get’s you the official Thai price and you’re likely to get a better deal than on any internet listings.
It’s worth noting that I have seen an improvement on internet listing prices especially for high end condos since there are way too many of them out there. So I wouldn’t rule out the internet for finding a really nice condo in a major city. If you’re looking for a modern and new Western-style place to live and you’re willing to spend the inflated prices to do so, the strategies I will mention won’t do you much good. But for renting a home or an apartment off the most desired streets and outside of the most expensive buildings and developments, stay off the internet and stay away from agents!
Make sure you put some time into the task. An extra few hours could easily lead to a nicer place to live long term at a much more affordable price. When you’re driving around looking for “For Rent” signs and you have a Thai person calling the #’s asking them how much without ever mentioning the fact that there is a foreigner involved, you’ll get some decent quotes. I would inquire into at least 20 different places; you owe yourself that kind of due diligence.
Once you find a couple of places you like and where the quotes were reasonable, it’s worth trying to negotiate. Many people think it’s an uphill battle, but I’m here to tell you that there is a way to knock people down on their asking rental prices even if they know they gave you a more than fair price. Granted the Thai price your Thai helper received may not be negotiable in some situations, but in many cases it is especially if you have money to work with. Even if they say it’s non-negotiable it probably is. What you can do is have a wad of money on you. So let’s just say for example you want to live in the rental for 1 full year and you’re sure it won’t be any issue at all for you to live there for that full year. Deposits aside (those will be extra but you’ll get them back), you can offer them 9-10 months up front in cash on the spot if they sign a 1 year deal with you completely pre-paid. You can even lay the money on the table and spread it out in front of their eyes. Make sure the terms are crystal clear and in writing. You pay between 9-10 months to them up front and in return you don’t pay them another dime for 1 full year of rent. Make sure they understand that they can take the money to their bank RIGHT NOW if they agree and sign. Make sure your Thai helper/companion also signs the agreement of course to ensure the owner is never tempted to give you a problem down the road. I repeat: Do not prepay for a year without a Thai person on the contract WITH YOU. The owner isn’t as likely to breach on the Thai person.
This negotiating strategy saves you around 20% off of a price that was probably already very good since you were only working the best true Thai prices you found from driving around for a full day with your helper. All in all you’ll be paying about 50% of what some less informed people pay for the same type of place. The reasons for why this works are obvious. That Thai owner knows there’s a good chance they don’t rent the property out for 2 or 3 months anyway, so at least with you they get a fist full of cash. They also don’t need to worry about chasing you and meeting with you every month for 11 months, and they know you’re probably a pretty responsible tenant compared to some of the broke and drunk Farang tenants they’ve heard horror stories about. You can feel free to sell them on these points, although realistically it’s the money that will do most of the talking.